In recent years, Mayday has been an event when immigrant activists and the Latino communities have protested with conviction against the unjust and brutal treatment of government officials, INS and police to exploit, intimidate, arrest, and/or deport them.
This Mayday, Oregon Dream activists Ricardo Varela, Liliana Luna, Silvio Poot and Diana Banda got involved in an act of civil disobedience to focus on the urgency of the recent anti-immigration policies, and the increasing hardships on their communities. Wearing graduation gowns, they marched with a banner, proclaiming “Undocumented, Unafraid!”
They chanted, “Up, up with education! Down, down, with deportation!” and “Undocumented, unafraid!”
They led other activists and supporters to the Gus Solomon Courthouse in downtown Portland, where they placed huge banners on the street. The banners’ messages articulated the plight of many immigrants here in the US: “Undocumented, Unafraid,”
“We will no longer live in the shadow,”
The four activists spoke movingly of their experiences living in fear in the US for so long as they saw their friends, family and folks arrested and deported. They decided to get arrested voluntarily in an act of civil disobedience to focus attention on the plight and suffering of undocumented people in the US. They urged people to stop living in the shadow of fear, and to stand up and fight for their rights. Diana Banda said, “If we don’t do something, who will?”
As the four were arrested by the cops, many supporters shouted out in solidarity. Several people were moved to tears, while others berated the cops for arresting them.
liliana luna explains her motivation in her own words (en espanol):
for more videos of the arrestees.
Recently I interviewed six illegal immigrants who have “come out” about their status.
Before we published the feature, my editor questioned their openness: “Aren’t they all going to get deported?”
Quite the opposite. The outspoken undocumented youth believe that by speaking out they will turn the tide; that by personalizing their cases they will stall deportation and finally they will gain needed emotional relief.
Putting a face to the issue.
“I think that’s one of the most powerful tools that we as undocumented immigrants have—putting the face to the issues and the numbers,” Daniela Alulema told me when we spoke.
“After I came out as undocumented and unafraid, and started organizing, I realized that when we are open and public about our status, we are safe. When we have a community to support us, then we are also safe. So, I do feel safe. It is the reason why I organize,” said Dulce Guerrero. “Sometimes I am afraid for my parents. I am afraid that they will be stopped. But for me, coming out as undocumented and unafraid, made me feel safer than before.”
Iliana Perez agreed, “I grew up with that notion, that I couldn’t say who I was, that I could get deported if I said I was undocumented. That’s just emotionally draining to have to hide, to be afraid of getting stopped by the police.”
“Growing up we are taught—this idea is drilled into us—that we should keep quiet, that we shouldn’t share with anyone who we are and about our status in order to stay safe, because you never know who you are going to come in contact with. That led me to feel shame and embarrassment,” said Jesus A. Barrios. “I thought well, I don’t have to share this with anyone. Something will change and I will be okay.”
His views have since changed and he believes that being open about his status makes him better equipped to deal with being detained. “For me being out and being public is the way of keeping safe, because I know if I was ever to be in that situation I would know who to contact, who to reach out to, to make sure I am not deported,” he explained.
Guerrero has previously participated in demonstrations publicly declaring her status and has even been arrested. She has also participated in phone banks after other activists have been arrested.
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